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Bylsma speaks on Malkin; also, updates on UFAs, Guerin, and injuries.


Seems like forever since I last posted, what with Josh Yohe handling post-game blog duties at Consol Energy Center of late. However, as the No. 1 beat boy, I reserve the right to take the “good” trips, which is why I’m at The Garden right now. Some quick hits before I get to coach DAN BYLSMA’s thoughts on C EVGENI MALKIN, who was in good spirits today on his favorite road stop:

= RW ARRON ASHAM (illness) and C MIKE COMRIE (lower-body injury) did not practice at Madison Square Garden. Bylsma said Asham possibly could play tonight against the New York Rangers, “but it looks unlikely.” As for Comrie, Bylsma said he has “a week or so of rehab to do.”

= The New York Post reported on Twitter that Rangers RW MARIAN GABORIK might not play tonight. If he doesn’t the Rangers would dress only 11 forwards, according to the Twitter report.

= The Penguins have not opened negotiations with any of their impending free agents. GM RAY SHERO and his staff are still formulating a plan for those talks. The Penguins’ impending free agents are: C CRAIG ADAMS, Asham, Comrie, RW CHRIS CONNER, RW PASCAL DUPUIS, D DERYK ENGELLAND, RW ERIC GODARD, C MIKE RUPP, C MAX TALBOT; C MARK LETESTU and RW TYLER KENNEDY are restricted free agents, meaning their deals will expire but the Penguins retain their rights.  Combined, these players account for $7.325 million against the salary cap this season.

= Former RW BILL GUERIN has not been hired by the Penguins as a professional scout, despite reports to the contrary. Shero said Guerin, who has not officially retired and is dabbling his toe in the TV broadcast waters on Versus, is being given the opportunity within the organization “to feel out” a possible future role in hockey. TOM FITZGERALD, currently the assistant to the general manager for the Penguins, was given the same opportunity four years ago when he was brought into the organization as a director of player development. Fitzgerald, who also served as an assistant coach on the 2009 Stanley Cup team, is on this trip to New York. Guerin, who lives in suburban Long Island, visited the Penguins at their morning practice. Shero said Guerin recently spent a weekend shadowing Fitzgerald at AHL affiliate Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

= Now for Bylsma’s thoughts on Malkin, who has scored 36 goals and 99 points in 91 regular-season games after closing his scoring-championship season with 11 goals and 32 points in the final 25 games after Bylsma replaced former coach MICHEL THERRIEN.

“I think we’d all like to see him put up bigger numbers and have the type of season he had two seasons ago, but I see him doing a lot of things better in his game this year than last year. The consistency in which he works on the defensive side of the puck is much better. He’s a guy we count on in the defensive zone to play against the other teams’ top players, as a centermen. The one area I think he can improve on, and he’s making strides, is his decision making with the puck; when he takes the opportunity to make an offensive play versus making a smart play.

“There’s a lot of good in his game. He’s just got to keep getting better and more focused, shooting the puck and attacking the net and playing in those areas — because he’s a dominant player when he does. He’s got a lot of those opportunities, but there’s still another level he can get to in that area of the game. But there’s a lot he’s adding to our team and I think sometimes that’s overshadowed.”

There is danger in reading too much into those words, but the points that stuck out to me:

* Bylsma believes Malkin is more consistent defensively. Last season Malkin often looked as though he was ignoring defensive responsibilities for long stretches. He was arguably the Penguins’ most aggressive backchecker during his two 1oo-point seasons. Often many of his best rushes and scoring chances those seasons came after he was engaged defensively.

* Bylsma specifically laid out how Malkin can be his old dominant self: shoot the puck, attack the net, play in (high traffic) areas. Three weeks ago I went back and watched the 2009 playoffs, which for Malkin didn’t begin great. In Game 3 of Round 2, he started shooting the puck, attacking the net and playing in those tough traffic areas. From that point on he was the playoffs’ leading scorer, and the Penguins’ best offensive player. His linemate from that point on was Talbot, with whom he has been reunited once again.

* Bylsma thinks Malkin can get to another level even though he’s adding a lot. That’s just it, no? He is on pace for 27 goals and 75 points. No fewer than 40 goals and 100 points, if he plays at least 77 games, should be the expectation — not because of his equal-to-SIDNEY CROSBY $8.7 million cap hit, but because Malkin: A) has shown he can score 40 and post 100; and B) may be the most physically gifted player in the game. One problem for Malkin in the perception category is Crosby’s continued rise. So long as they are on the same team one will be judged by the production of the other, as was the case two years ago when it appeared Malkin had taken a step ahead of Crosby.

Anyway, that’s all for this large update.




Author: Rob Rossi

Rob Rossi is the lead sports columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He has been called many names, but “Rossi” is the one to which he most often responds. He joined the Trib in November 2002 and was promoted to the columnist role in July 2014. Previously, he had covered the NHL’s Penguins (2006-14) and MLB’s Pirates (2006), while also working on beats associated with the NFL’s Steelers (2005-06) and the NCAA’s Pitt (2004-06). He has won national and local awards for his coverage of youth concussions and athletes’ charities. Also, he is a member of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association executive committee and the Pittsburgh chapter chair. Raised in Crafton and Green Tree and a graduate of West Virginia University, he has covered a Super Bowl, All-Star Games in baseball and hockey, the NCAA basketball tournament and over 100 Stanley Cup playoff games, including the Cup Final twice. Oh, and his sports reporting has led him to brief chats with Mick Jagger and Bruce Springsteen; so that’s pretty cool. He is a regular contributor on TV with WPXI, Root Sports Pittsburgh and TSN. Also, he is the authorized biographer of Penguins star Evgeni Malkin.


  1. Frank says:

    As for Comrie, Bylsma said he has “a week or so of rehab to do.” –

    Rehab for what exactly? Did he pull a muscle while making his way up to the Penguins press box?

    Take it for what it’s worth, but the Comrie trade rumors are starting up and organizations like the Panthers and Kings are supposedly involved. Shero is good, but I’m not sure many clubs are looking for a guy who has 0 goals, 5 assists and is a -4 in 16 games. If he’s not scoring goals, he is not doing this team any good. He brings absoutely nothing else to the table.

    Either way, you get what you pay for in this league and we are now seeing why he came with a $500,000 price tag. From what I’ve seen over the last two months, the price tag is the only positive to come out of the Mike Comrie signing.

  2. Mario says:

    With all respect to talbot, asham, cooke, etc… geno needs @ least 1 linemate to help, Kunitz seems to finally living up to his salary & potential of being a linemate w/ Sid..Yes Geno needs to shoot the puck more, attack the net, but he also needs a linemate. Any updates on Staal?

  3. Shawn says:

    I think Mike Comrie can still be effective in the NHL (especially if any Panthers scouts are reading this) but, in order to play in Bylsma’s system, you HAVE to HAVE speed. Lots of speed. Unless you are Rupp…then you need good speed and lots of reach.

    Comrie can’t skate.

    It’s the same reason Sykora failed in Bylsma’s system. The same reason Ponikarovsky failed. The same reason Caputi was traded. The same reason Satan couldn’t play for us, but was able to go to a different system in Boston and do well.

    Maybe Comrie can play for a trapping team. What we would get for him? A 6th?

    Can someone start an online petition to demand that Steigy and Errey stop saying “Bylsmagic” and “Talbo”?

    I’ll sign it.

  4. Geno says:

    Hear here Shawn on Steigy and Errey! And can they stop calling plays that don’t even happen?

  5. Nellieh says:

    I don’t live close enough to Pittsburgh to attend games and with sell outs it doesn’t matter where you live. So I have Center Ice. I enjoy the games and Crosby’s exceptional ability. Here is the BUT! Listening to Steigerwald, game after game, extoling Crosby’s out of this world ability, what he is thinking before he does it and on and on has become too saccharin. I’m sure he idolizes him but for heaven’s sake tone it down a little. Watching Sid play explains what he does. He is not broadcasting on radio, we can see what goes on. Even Sid’s remarkable achievments!

  6. espo33 says:

    Mario-the thing about Kunitz, is that when he was healthy after being in the lineup he has put up numbers with Crosby. But the thing about Crosby is he puts up numbers even without great linemates and I think we all (I do) expect Malkin should be doing the same. He is fine with Talbot on the line, but having Talbot and Cooke is not the answer. I guess they are going to hold out until Staal comes back and hope that line catches fire. If Staal is out longer they need to bring up someone who can score like Craig or Sterling. I know they are career minor leaguers, but they have more of a scoring ablity that the rest and they already have a net guy with Talbot on the line. Cooke would have to go back to the 3rd line.

    Shawn-Caputi could skate, it was just a matter of trading an asset for someone who wasn’t suppose to suck…

  7. Frank says:

    If Shero can pull it off, I would take a few water bottles for the guy at this point.

    Simply because of his price tag, I wouldn’t be shocked to see some sucker out there actually give us something in return for him and become the seventh organization to take a gamble on the guy. At the same time, I definately wouldn’t be shocked to see us outright release him when Jordan Staal returns.

    No matter the future case, I think the Mike Comrie experiment is just about winding down in Pittsburgh. Much like how it did in Edmonton, Ottawa, Phoenix, Long Island and Philadelphia. Now it’s time to see if there is an organization out there that feel’s he will magically bloom once he plays in their particular system.

    Good luck with that #7.

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